LAWRENCE — Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Daniel Rivera told reporters Wednesday that while they are hopeful Columbia Gas will hit its new Dec. 16 deadline, residents can expect the situation's frustrations to continue until restoration has been completed.
Columbia Gas estimated that approximately 3,000 customers, or 30 percent of those affected by the Sept. 13 gas disaster, would have to wait beyond the company's original Nov. 19 deadline to see their gas service restored.
"I do believe people — at the current pace they're at, with the current manpower they have on the ground, with additional folks arriving ... the rest of this week — it looks like they're pretty close to delivering on the targets that have been established of both the 19th, the first part of December, and Dec. 16," Baker said.
Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito were in Lawrence Wednesday to tour the call center where residents can ask for alternative housing and to oversee the process by which Columbia Gas is notifying customers once they have been re-lit.
Residents, however, have complained that there is still a widespread lack of communication between Columbia Gas contractors and residents, and some have said they've experienced problems even after Columbia Gas has restored their gas service.
"This frustration, it's going to continue to be frustrating. Just when you think you're turning the corner on it, it's going to feel like you're almost home, and you're going to get lit, and something's going to come up," Rivera said. "We are continually living in a disaster zone."
"I just want people to have a level of expectation that best case scenario, there will be more frustration," he added.
Toward the end of the press conference, Rivera made a plea to plumbers to come work in the Merrimack Valley as Columbia Gas contractors.
"I think the pace at which we're getting plumbers is a problem," Rivera said. "Massachusetts has 22,000 licensed plumbers. We haven't been able to get over 600."
Plumbers in the state who are willing to work in the area affected by the disaster can call 800-799-8341.
"Believe me, we feel the frustration because we talk to these folks every single day," Baker said. "It's a big undertaking and I wish we could be done by tomorrow."